Job InterviewWe all know what it feels like to sit for an interview. You desperately want the job. But in order to get it, you find yourself sweating it out in front of a stranger (or even a roomful of strangers) having to field question after question about yourself and your employment history and goals. It’s no picnic; let’s put it that way. But what about the interviewer? How does he or she feel about her role in the interview? Have they given it much thought? A good interviewer will realize that he or she is in a position of power relative to the candidate, and, as the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Chief among those responsibilities is an obligation to make the interview as productive and illuminating as possible. The best way to do that–and get the most out of your poor interviewee besides–is to avoid the following four types of questions.

Keep It Legal

The most obvious set of questions you should never ask during an interview are highly personal. They’re also potentially illegal. Federal and state law prohibits determining the eligibility or desirability of a job candidate based on sexual preference, age, country of origin, ethnicity, disabilities, marital status, religion, race, and gender. As a general rule, it’s best to steer clear of this territory. If you must address sticky subjects such as family planning, it’s best to describe the company’s policies about maternity or paternity leave rather than ask, point-blank, “So, do you think you’ll be getting pregnant anytime soon?”

Keep It Relevant

Avoid questions that are deliberately vague and open-ended. Questions like, “If you were a food, what food would you be?” or “What’s your favorite color?” will tell you nothing pertinent about the candidate and how they might perform at their job. (Although, admittedly, you might have a better idea of what to buy them for a gift!)  A good rule of thumb here is that if you won’t be able to analyze the answer in terms of the job itself, you shouldn’t ask the question in the first place. After all, what does the fact that Interviewee A loves the color red, while B loves fuchsia tell you about how well either of them will handle customer complaints or operate equipment?

Keep It Fresh

The last thing you want to do is ask questions that prompt the candidate to recite their resume to you. You already know the answer to these questions. Don’t waste your time or theirs. Instead, zero in on certain gaps in their resume or ask them to talk more about a specific project or initiative they launched at one of their previous jobs.

Keep It Fair

We’ve all heard stories about the exceedingly “clever” questions interviewers at certain tech giants ask candidates (not to mention the sheer number of interviews each candidate must go through to get a job). But lately, there’s been some backlash against using brain teasers and riddles to get at how talented or reliable a candidate may be. Bottom line: trick questions mostly make the interviewer feel smart, and mostly make the interviewee feel uncomfortable. Rather than spend time dreaming up ways to beguile a candidate, figure out what you want in an employee and come up with questions that elicit these qualities, skills, and character traits. Now that’s clever!

For more information on sound hiring practices and other employment-related issues, please reach out to the expert recruiting team at Masiello Employment Services.